As supermodel Bella Hadid counts the cost of a social media post that created uproar, the fragile relationship between brands and their ambassadors also comes under the spotlight.

One minute your name and face is up in lights as the inspiration to millions of consumers, the next your image is being hurriedly removed from shopping malls and stores like tins of contaminated salmon.

In a world where the instant wrath of social media followers leads to a rapid corporate trial and guilty verdict, is something missing from the process?

Hadid, a 22-year-old Palestinian-American, was attacked for posting an image seen by some as insulting towards the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Quickly deleted, it showed the model’s boot held in the air near an airport window overlooking airplanes carrying the flags of the two countries.

Her apology, that the post had nothing to do with politics and she’d made an honest, early morning mistake, was barely heard amid the rapidly escalating row.

Dior removed her visuals from shopping malls and stores across the GCC, refusing to confirm whether the decision was terminal but leaving the supermodel out in the cold.

Just days earlier she’d shared a New York Times op-ed on the UAE and Saudi playing a role in Sudan’s military crackdown on demonstrators, later saying it was meant to raise awareness of the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Left to fight his daughter’s corner, real estate developer Mohamed Hadid claims she is the victim of jealous individuals and trolls out to destroy the career of a young, proud Muslim who had been a “champion of Arab causes.”

Was Hadid wrong to put up that airport post on Instagram? Obviously. Did she aim to offend anyone? Almost certainly not. Was her post actually offensive? To some, yes. Were Dior right to distance themselves from her? In the name of sales, surely.

From Dior’s point of view, delaying the guilty verdict would have been an expensive mistake. Wrapping their sympathetic arms around the young lady, with a couple of flags to help, too much of a risk.

Some advice in advance for the luxury brand’s next new face – keep your boots down, stay off social media until you’re awake, and get some professional advice about what you post on Instagram.


One of the toughest jobs PR firms often have with clients is making them appreciate what is news, and what isn’t.

Over the years I’ve often started the discussion with the line that news is something new with an ‘s’ on the end.

If the information you’re planning to release is nothing new, don’t expect it to produce good PR when so much information circulates instantly online.

So, if what you want to announce isn’t new, build it into something that is to provide impact and put the service or product you’re selling in front of your audience.

Research can often be the key, providing newsworthy statistics and trends which make an announcement relevant and interesting.

Any story really takes off if it contains elements of human interest, competition or conflict, celebrity involvement or something completely out of the ordinary.

The budget may not run to hiring a Hollywood star to endorse a product on Instagram live while abseiling the world’s tallest building.

But think hard and be creative, like the best storytellers. That’s what the best PR people are.

Why your story must be told during summer

Public Relations works to tell your brand’s story, and tell it all year round.

Slowing down or halting the process during the summer holiday period – as many companies do – hands the initiative to your competitors.

Your PR programme should run consistently during what is traditionally seen as a time when everything slows down, and audiences switch off or go on vacation, particularly in the Middle East.

That’s ignoring the fact that print and broadcast media are still switched on and particularly receptive to good stories at a time when many sources dry up.

Meanwhile, digital media in general and social media platforms in particular don’t shut down for holidays, and consumers certainly don’t switch off, even by the pool or beachside.

Make slow news time your time to capitalise while your competitors nod off in the sun.